Saturday, June 23, 2012

Hot and Cooking (This week's Photo Hunt themes)

For those who wondered why I missed Sandi's and Gattina's Photo Hunts last week: This time last week, I was back in Penang -- whose capital, George Town, was inscribed onto UNESCO's World Heritage List back in 2008.  As many Penangites (including myself) have long thought and maintained however, this Malaysian state's greatest cultural heritage may well be its great food -- specifically that which is served up by hawkers in open air locales or open front kopi tiam (which literally translates from Hokkien to English as coffee shop(s)).  

Increasingly, the word seems to be out in the international foodie community -- with the likes of Anthony Bourdain proclaiming that "Penang is the kind of place that ruined me for an ordinary life" (Elaborating further on the Penang episode of No Reservations, he talked about how "It's the condiments here, the chilis. Once you have that, there's no going back.") and The Guardian (via John Brunton) stating that "Penang has the best street food in Asia".

While I was still in Hong Kong, a friend e-mailed to make a suggestion for dinner that Saturday night.  (We Penangites are like that.  So food obsessed are we that our customary greeting is "Have you eaten yet?"; this phrase used decades -- centuries even -- before "What's cooking?" was used as greeting over in the U.S.!)   Specifically, she suggested that we have lok lok (AKA "dip dip" -- because eating lok lok involves the diners dip, dipping and thereby cooking the sticks of food they want to eat into a pot of boiling hot water) at the hawker center that springs to life in the evenings in the vicinity of Pulau Tikus Market.

So last Saturday night saw my friend and I seated at one of those special lok lok tables (whose center houses a boiling hot pot of water) sampling the fare prepared by stall proprietor Ah Seong.  (And no, we didn't eat everything on the table -- it was just there for us to choose from!  Also, I have to admit to not daring to try the spicier hot sauces on the table and, instead, sticking to a combination of peanut-y satay and sweet hoisin sauces.)  

I also couldn't resist some of the other fare being cooked up at other stalls in the hawker center -- and what with it being really hot at the table (as a result of our close proximity to the hot boiling water increasing the area temperature on an already hot equatorial climate evening!), my friend and I also ended up needing to have a couple of non-alcoholic drinks each. 

If truth be told, this kind of dining arrangement seems like it would be far more suitable for cooler weather and colder climates.  But I guess it fits in with the line of thinking that perspiring helps cool one down!  In any case, if the food is tasty and the company cool (or hot? ;b), then people don't seem to mind -- and do enjoy -- the lok lok experience on offer in many parts of Penang.  Indeed, so popular is this dining option that tables often have to be shared with complete strangers -- and rather than minding, hey, it may just add to the overall communal dining out experience! :)

Addendum: Eck!  I just realized that this week's theme for Gattina's Photo Hunt is fashion, and cooking was last week's!  Too late now to change though... so consider me finally putting up an entry for last week's theme chosen by Gattina along with this week's theme chosen by Sandi!  ;(


magiceye said...

Street food is the best!

MaR said...

That's why I drink hot coffee in the summer! great shots and nice culinary experience.
I guess we are all a bit mixed up...:)
Happy weekend

fashion ~ hot

Hootin Anni said...

Can't beat your choice...when it comes to is best.

My Photo Hunters Link is: HOT in pursuit

Anonymous said...

YUM - it looks like an amazing meal! great shot for this week's theme.

Have a good weekend.

Carver said...

Sounds like so much fun. I enjoyed your shots and narrative.

Susan Demeter said...

Love hot food! These themes work well together too :) Happy to see your back and happy photo hunting!

sarah bailey knight said...

hi ytsl,

What a spread to pick from!!! Is the water seasoned and/or do the condiments on the table fill that role? Are you charged by how much you eat or is it a flat fee?

Trekcapri said...

Hi YTSL, very cool post. The lok lok looks very delicious. I love their greeting too. :) Your photos are wonderful as it captures the dining experience that you describe. I'm kind of craving malaysian food now.

Have a wonderful weekend.

YTSL said...

Hi magiceye --

There are times when it most certainly feels like it! :b

Hi Mar --

If there were a week for me to get mixed up, this was a good one -- as I have to admit to having a lot more photos of Cooking than Fashion... ;)

Hi Hootin Anni --

Actually, I think that variety is the spice of life! Also, that one's hot can be someone else's mild... ;b

Hi JDeQ --

It was a pretty good meal -- especially since my addition to the lok lok was a plate of char koay teow! :b

Hi Carver --

Thanks for, as ever, reading as well as looking. Really appreciate your taking the time to do both -- and then comment as well. :)

Hi Sue --

The two themes really do work together. And having just returned from Penang, my choice of photos truly seemed like a no-brainer. :)

Hi sbk --

I don't think the water's seasoned -- or if so, it's so mild I didn't notice. But, ya, it's the condiments and sauces -- and the food itself -- that are responsible for the flavors.

As for pricing: notice that the sticks are colored at the tips. Different colors denote different prices. BTW, my friend and my combined total of sticks came up to less than 25 Malaysian dollars... ;b

Hi Trekcapri --

Is there a Malaysian restaurant where you live? I have to admit to finding them a disappointment most times... but if you're desperate and far from Penang... ;)

peppylady (Dora) said...

Nothing like good food and the weather shouldn't make any difference...mine is up and the coffee is on.

CherryPie said...

Everything looks so tasty in that top photo :-)

Vicki said...

Great food display and I have never seen the hot water cooking method in any Malaysian restaurant I have been to here. What happens with the food not eaten/used?

My Hot theme is at

YTSL said...

Hi peppylady --

You don't eat different things in different seasons (weather as well as growing)? I do, actually -- well, when I live in a place with winter and summer, not just wet and dry, seasons... ;b

Hi CherryPie --

Guess you'd want to try a stick of everything if you were at that table, huh? ;b

Hi Vicki --

Lok lok is more of a street food thing than a restaurant thing. I wonder though if you'll find a Malaysian restaurant that serves "steamboat" or a Chinese one that serves "hot pot" (a similar idea) some time...

Re the food that's uneaten: it stays on the table waiting for the next occupants... I hope that by the end of the night, most if not all has been eaten. Otherwise, it'd be such a waste. (Don't see much of it lasting beyond one evening!)

Sandi @the WhistleStop Cafe said...

That's HoT!
I think Anthony Bourdain is always interesting... I'll have to watch out for this episode.
Now we get to 'Flash' next weekend.
Happy Hunting ~

YTSL said...

Hi Sandi --

I've read that Anthony Bourdain's Asia episodes are far more interesting than, say, his Eastern Europe ones. Have to say he sure does enjoy his Asian food -- and probably with good reason! ;b